Cuba 2014, Day 06

21 Mar

Across the Harbor & a Musical Afternoon

Last year, we had wanted to go across the harbor to a small settlement. Our guide thought that it might be unsafe, so we decided against it. This year, with the input of our local guides, we decided to go over but stick close to the waterfront. There was a church over there that had ties to the Santería and Yorùbá religions (see Day 03). Many people cross over on the ferry to make offerings, and we felt this was an extension of what we had seen earlier in the week as well as an opportunity to see a different part of the city.

Many years ago, one of the ferries was hijacked with a view to heading for the US. I don’t think they made it out of the harbor, but since that time, security is very strict boarding the ferry. This, by the way, was no fancy ferry. It was old, rusty, had minimal seating … but it did float.

We could not photograph inside the ferry terminal, so Arnie had visions of my disappearing into one of the Habana jails when I thought it was OK to photograph and started to click the shutter. Woops, no, we were still inside the official, governmental, ferry confines, albeit outside the actual building, so I apologized and quickly put the camera down. Whew!

On the other side of the harbor, people were fishing. I am not sure I would want to eat anything that came out of that industrial harbor, but then, I do not have a cast-iron stomach!© 2014 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail TBC (at) BCphotoadventures (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at 919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time, GMT-5.

We checked in at the church and our guide found there was going to be a ceremony for the Santería a bit later in the morning, so we meandered the streets, each person finding his/her own images. It was not a busy part of the city, so when I saw this scene, I knew what I wanted and had to wait a bit until a young mother came around the corner, adding a splash of color to the street.© 2014 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail TBC (at) BCphotoadventures (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at 919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time, GMT-5.

A lineman set up a tall, orange ladder and climbed up to do battle with the snaggle of wires around the pole. His friend, below and out of the image behind me, kept up a Continue reading 

Cuba 2014, Day 05

17 Mar

Valle de Viñales, another UNESCO World Heritage Site

UNESCO World Heritage Sites are extraordinary. As noted on the UNESCO website, “The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity…” Suffice it to say that out of the current 981 sites around the world, nine are in Cuba. To put it into perspective, the much, much larger United States has only 21.

Old Havana and its Fortification System is one that you have been reading about in this blog. Another is Viñales Valley, or Valle de Viñales, as it is locally called.

You can read all about it on the UNESCO site, but what stands out in our minds, besides the amazing karst landscape with its leafy, sugar-plum hills, is the agriculture, including tobacco farming, and wonderful, friendly people.

We got an early-ish start. The hotel put out breakfast goodies for us, and we piled into our bus. Most people went back to sleep, knowing it would be a long day. Of course, most of them had not been on a regular workshop with us, so have no idea of what a long day really is!

One drives through several provinces before reaching the Valley. Cars speed by us, including high-end Audis and Mercedes. This may be a Communist country, but as with all countries, there are the haves and have-nots. We also pass little boxy Polish and Soviet cars as well as horse-drawn, rubber-wheeled carts, their drivers sitting on one side, reins in hand along with the occasional switch.

There is a famous overlook, and it is a good place to stop and introduce our group to this magnificent area. There are toilets and good coffee, always a good combination after an early start. I barely captured this man bringing out the Cuban flags for the day’s display, and unlike most people we have met throughout the three weeks we thus far spent in Cuba, this one gave me the beady eye. One can imagine that he was one of Fidel’s soldiers back before Raoul took over. Life has changed since then, and while Raoul is not perfect, there have been many positive changes in Cuba. And this gentleman kept to himself, did his job efficiently, and soon, the flags were dancing gaily in the mountain breezes.© 2014 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail TBC (at) BCphotoadventures (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at 919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time, GMT-5.

Most all the houses in this beautiful valley are very tidy. Whitewashed and modest-but-pristine, they sit amongst the jumble of abrupt hills, workers and dogs going about their daily routines.© 2014 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail TBC (at) BCphotoadventures (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at 919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time, GMT-5.

At the place above, a tobacco farmer obliges us by cutting some leaves that are ready. The first crop has already been harvested, but there are second-crop leaves coming along. He shows how he rolls his cigars and lights one for our participants to share. Several buy some for their visit within Cuba, knowing that Continue reading 

Cuba 2014, Day 04

15 Mar

An Amazing Restoration School and the Streets of La Habana

Last year, we were all struck by the amazing restoration going on in La Habana. Students at Escuela de Taller apprentice, then work on buildings throughout the city, restoring them to their former glory. The Bacardi Building is one example that I showed in last-year’s blog series. We were amazed at the work that had been done in the city in just one short year in a country with limited resources.

We were happy that this year’s group was equally impressed with the work that these students do. The tools are simple. Most things are done by hand. While this young man is using a table saw, his mitering is done by eye without benefit of angle tools. OSHA would have a hissy fit at the modest safety precautions, but these students take responsibility for themselves, and they are careful.© 2014 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail TBC (at) BCphotoadventures (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at 919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time, GMT-5.

After our tour of some of the restoration studios, we discovered what is probably the last place in Cuba where the Cuban and Soviet flags fly side-by-side. When the Soviets left Cuba, they left the country in dire straits, and the Cubans understandably are not enamored of Russia, so it is unusual to find such a site still existing. We were impressed, not necessarily in a favorable way, with all the wiring criss-crossing like an elaborate spider web across the ceiling and walls.© 2014 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail TBC (at) BCphotoadventures (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at 919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time, GMT-5.

When we met this nice gentleman standing in his doorway, a heart on the wall beside the door, none of us quite knew what to expect! Was this a house of love? As it turned out, he was a welder and invited us into his modest home. Clearly, there was no woman around, as his workshop was in disarray. Generally, the houses where we are invited in are pristine, everything in its place. That said, this was a work place, and our host was most generous to allow us in. I liked the palette offered by Continue reading